01:56 - Source: WCCO
African-American students sue school district for racism
CNN —  

The parents of six former and current African-American students are suing a Minnesota school district in federal court over allegations of racial discrimination.

In a lawsuit against the Independent School District 112, also known as Eastern Carver County Schools, the parents accused some schools in the district of failing to address multiple cases of racial bullying. The guardians and parents sued on behalf of the students, most of whom are still minors.

The alleged incidents involved students at elementary, middle and high schools across the district, CNN affiliate WCCO reported.

Racist bullying was so rampant, the lawsuit says, a local news story in April started with, “Chaska, it happened again. Another racially charged incident” in the school district. Chaska is a city in Carver County.

By acting indifferently to repeated discrimination complaints, the school district emboldened racist behavior, the lawsuit says.

Here are some allegations from the lawsuit:

September 2018: Students wearing blackface, one in an afro wig, attend a high school football game. The school talked only to parents of black students after the photos appeared in the media.

December 2018: A black student’s gym shirt was stolen and returned to his locker at a local middle school with the “N-word” written on it in three places.

February 2019: Two white high school students took a photo wearing a charcoal cosmetic mask with the hashtag #blackface. They posted it on social media, where the lawsuit says it went viral. It’s unclear from the lawsuit whether this happened on school grounds, but an African-American student showed it to the principal, who responded “something to the effect of, ‘Where is this? Can this go viral?’”

The same month, black students were told not to display several Black History month posters because they were too “controversial.” But they say white students were allowed to carry “all lives matter” signs at a rally for school safety.

April 2019: White students posted a Snapchat image of 25 black students with their faces on an area of Google map labeled “Negro Hill.” It’s unclear whether this happened on school grounds or had any connection to the district.

May 2019: The school district allowed a picture of a white student wearing blackface to be printed in a high school yearbook. The school is having the yearbooks reprinted without the image, KARE reported.

Lawsuit cites insults and attacks

The lawsuit says black students have been called “monkey,” told they don’t belong, physically assaulted, racially profiled and faced death threats over a race relations assembly at the school. One student said a white student punched him in the face on the school bus while he attended middle school. He was called the “N word,” poked with pencils, shot with rubber bands, and threatened, the lawsuit says. He has autism, and had a hard time understanding why others treated him that way, the lawsuit says.

Four of six plaintiffs left the schools

As a result of the harassment, the lawsuit alleges, the students suffered emotional trauma and education disruption, with some leaving the district for their own personal wellbeing. Four of the six plaintiffs left schools in the district due to the multiple racist incidents and the lack of action, the lawsuit alleges.

“And throughout all of this, ISD 112 has turned a blind eye and failed to meaningfully address the racism once and for all,” the lawsuit alleges.

Instead of meaningful consequences for their actions, the lawsuit says, the white students have been given escorts to protect them from being targeted by the African- American students they victimized.

During some of the incidents, teachers were present or administrators were informed of racist behavior, but the school district failed to “take meaningful action,” the lawsuit says.

The students want a jury trial

The Independent School District 112 told CNN it cannot comment on specific litigation. The district’s superintendent, Clint Christopher, wrote a letter last week to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, pledging more efforts to ensure inclusion.

In the letter, he said the district is committed to an educational environment where all students feel safe and included. A 2015 survey showed about 3.3% of the students in the district are black, according to the Office of Civil Rights.

“We have … been working in earnest to move the needle and improve outcomes for every child that walks through our doors,” Christopher wrote. Ellison declined to comment when reached by CNN.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the US District Court of Minnesota. The six students want a jury trial to determine damages in excess of $75,000 for mental anguish and emotional distress.